Meet the Woman Empowering Black Farmers to Fight Against Land Loss

Shirley Sherrod co-founded the Southwest Georgia Project and New Communities, Inc. with her husband and has been dedicated to advocacy for most of her 73 years.

Jonathan Kauffman

Shirley Sherrod has spent most of her 73 years working to improve life for Black farmers in the corner of Georgia where she was born. Her life has been threatened, her land taken from her. Yet her persistence has never wavered. She still pursues innovative ways to fight African American land loss and provide farmers with the tools they need to succeed. “If there’s something she can do, she’s going to do it,” says George Hall, Jr., a farmer in Albany, Georgia, who Sherrod assisted with everything from training and technical support to advice on navigating the financial and bureaucratic aspects of land ownership.

The disappearance of Black-owned farmland has been relentless and well documented. In 1910, Black farmers owned 14 million acres of U.S. farmland. By the end of the century, that acreage had fallen by 90%. Banks and the USDA refused to issue loans to Black farmers to cover crop losses and buy new equipment. Predatory lawmakers and white landowners blocked access to markets, passed discriminatory regulations-and hoovered up land.